Dubai has been one of the greatest, and strangest, economic success stories of the 21st century so far. Despite the fact that the city is located right in the center of the troubled Middle East, it’s thriving. At one point, the city was such a hive of activity that more than half of the world’s cranes were on Dubai soil.
Thanks to its opulent attractions and fine weather, the city has since become a sort of new age Mecca for the rich and the famous. From the world’s tallest tower to underwater hotels, Dubai is a land of superlatives. It’s also a place that knows a thing or two about headlines and how to work the media.
Advertising has made a big difference here. With the oil reserves running low, the city is making a push to attract tourists and financial institutions to its shores. As a result, we’ve gotten a city in the desert that looks set to become a global hub.
So what exactly is there to do here for the average tourist?
Dubai, like most modern cities, is a blend of both rich and poor. On the one hand are the gleaming skyscrapers, and on the other, open markets and a large working class population. For many travelers, it’s in these working class districts where the real magic and character of Dubai can be experienced. Perhaps one of the most famous of these districts is centered around the Al Dhiyafah Road. This is known throughout the city as the place to go if you want cheap vegan eats. Because of Dubai’s location, you’ll find a range of influences on the food here. There are dishes like you’d find on the streets of Tehran here, as well as Lebanese and Indian cuisine. It’s a real mixture, and one of the other places to get authentic food in the whole of the city.
The Burj Al Arab is perhaps the most famous hotel in the whole of Dubai. It’s built on it’s own island right out in the Persian Gulf. And it’s claim to fame is that it is the only seven-star hotel in the world. That’s actually a myth: you can’t get higher than five. But it’s a very believable myth, given the quality of service on offer and the gold leaf furnishings.
Find a yacht rental and sail around the back of the hotel to get a closer look. It’s a stunning piece of architecture, designed in the shape of a sail. On the top of the hotel, there is a rooftop tennis court. Both Roger Federer and Andy Murray have played there.
The Man-Made Islands
Dubai is a city of mega projects. Perhaps the most extreme of these are the projects to extend the city out into the sea itself. The first of these projects was the Palm Jumeirah. This was then followed by a few more islands and The World. On these islands are a mix of holiday homes and hotels. And in case you’re wondering – no, you can’t buy a home on one of these islands. They were all snapped up a decade ago.